There is lots to discuss on around the NHL and inside the Oilers dressing room.
- Is Taylor Hall ready to play?
- Will the Oilers send Magnus Paajarvi to the minors when Hall returns?
- Is Darryl Sutter really the right answer for the LA Kings?
- Are the Wild, Panthers and Blues for real?
- Is Ricky Ray really only worth a journeyman QB, a potential kicker and a pick?
Taylor Hall feels he is very close to playing and might be back as early as Thursday, and that will lead to two decisions, with one being much more difficult: What line combinations will Tom Renney use and will the Oilers make the tough, but correct, decision and send Paajarvi to OKC?
Line combinations are a great source for banter and debate and considering many teams change them rather frequently it likely doesn’t matter that much who Renney unites on Thursday because by Saturday the combos could be different again.
The decision for Paajarvi is much different. It is a hot topic amongst the Oilers management and coaching units. They aren’t all in agreement at this point, but I sense they are getting closer to realizing that a stint in OKC might be the best thing for the struggling sophomore.
Is there any real negative to sending him to OKC? I sure don’t see one.
I don’t buy that ridiculous notion that "they will ruin him," or that he’ll "be mad at the organization," if he gets a stint in the minors. Of course he won’t be happy, but the suggestion that he is so fragile mentally that a trip to the AHL seems based solely on a pessimistic premise.
Paajarvi’s dream is to play in the NHL just like it has been for many others, and while it will sting to have that put on hold momentarily it’s not like they are saying he is garbage and will never return.
He needs to play and right now he isn’t better than Hall, Eberle, Smyth, Hemsky, Gagner or Jones. There isn’t any room for him right now, so why not let him regain his confidence, and more importantly, get him playing more minutes including on special teams.
The argument that he won’t score doesn’t fly either. He will score in the AHL, likely not every night, but he has more skill than 98% of those in the AHL and he needs to rediscover that. Those who are worried he won’t score are being over dramatic. Gilbert Brule is scoring down there, and short-term pain for long-term gain has to be their way of thinking with Paajarvi.
The Oilers need to realize this and they need to make a tough decision and get it done.
- For the past two seasons a rookie D-man led all rookies in assists. Kevin Shattenkirk had 34 last year, while Tyler Myers had 37 in 2010. That won’t happen this year. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins already has 11 more helpers than the three leading D-men.
- In the past 15 years only two rookies have led all rookies in goals, assists and points. Brad Richards had 21-41-62 in 2001, while Evgeni Malkin tallied 33-52-85 in 2007. It is tough to sweep all three categories. Usually the point leader will lead in two of the three. The only two rookies to have the most points, but not the most goals or assists in the past 15 years were Patrick Kane in 2008 and Jeff Skinner last year. Jonathan Toews had more goals than Kane while Nic Backstrom had more assists, while Shattenkirk and Logan Couture led in assists and goals respectively.
- Keep in mind that in the last 15 years the rookie leading scorer won the Calder trophy eight times. Right now RNH is the clear favourite, but it isn’t a guarantee that the leading scorer always takes home the hardware.
- After Terry Murray many people on twitter were instantly tossing out Darryl Sutters name as his replacement. Sutter hasn’t coached since 2006. He would bring the hard-ass approach that Dean Lombardi is looking for, but will he allow the Kings’ skilled players to be creative. Murray’s system was too passive, which is surprising when you look at his top forwards. Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll and even Simon Gagne are solid two-way players. They know how to play responsibly defensively, so why wouldn’t you let them play a more attacking style. If Sutter challenges them while letting them show their skill he might be a good fit. We’ll see.
- I’m not sure who is a bigger surprise, the Wild, Panthers or the Blues. The Blues were supposed to be improved this year, and since Ken Hitchcock came on board they’ve been great at 11-2-3. Hitchcock has them playing solid defensively, while Brian Elliott continues to shock everyone in net.
I think the Wild are slightly ahead of the Panthers as the biggest surprise. The Wild lead the entire NHL, and they’ve done it dressing 33 different players so far. Only seven Wild players have dressed for all 30 games. They’ve dressed ten different D-men already and only four have played more than 18 games. Rookie head coach, Mike Yeo, has to be the early candidate for coach of the year, and the crazy part is the Wild seem to be getting better rather than tailing off.
Many people laughed at Dale Tallon when he traded for or signed numerous "castoffs" back in July. He acquired Brian Campbell’s massive contract (5 years at $7.1 million) for Rostislav Olesz, and he grabbed Kris Versteeg. Then he signed Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim, Matt Bradley, Ed Jovanovski and Jose Theodore. Versteeg, Fleischmann along with holdover Stephen Weiss are now the most productive line in the NHL with 91 points and a combined +50. Who saw that coming?
Campbell is playing 26:40/game and has 2-22-24 points and is +9. He also has only taken one penalty. A delay of game penalty when in accidently shot the puck over the glass. He has been incredible for the Panthers. They are essentially winning with one line and three D-men scoring. (Dmitri Kulupov has 20 points, while Jason Garrison has 9 goals).
Everyone is waiting for the bubble to burst, but rookie bench boss Kevin Dineen has them playing great as a team. I think the Panthers will fade quicker than the Wild, but right now they are a great story for the NHL, and they are actually attracting real fans this year.
- I know this is a hockey site, but I have to comment on the Ricky Ray trade. The Esks lost this trade; there is no way to argue that. Esks’ GM, Eric Tillman, told me yesterday this deal is more about the young QBs they have, rather than Steven Jyles. I could understand that rationale if Matt Nichol or Eric Ward had actually taken some snaps last season, but they didn’t. This is a huge gamble by Tillman. He traded away a franchise QB, for a bunch of "What ifs." Ray didn’t want out and the Esks weren’t in a financial crunch. Tillman will have some cap flexibility to go out and sign some free agents, OL Simeon Rottier from Hamilton will be one, but will it be enough to help protect an unproven group of quarterbacks?
This move will either look great or ultimately cost Tillman his job. I credit him for taking a risk, but I’m not sure this was a gamble that needed to be made right now. He’s never been shy to make a big splash, (traded Kerry Joseph and Kent Austin after his teams won the Cup in 1994 and 2007), but Ricky Ray is in a different category than those two.
Joseph was a one-hit wonder, not a top-ten QB of all-time, while Austin was banged up and old. Tillman will need to give head coach Kavis Reed a better O-Line and some speedy recievers if he expects the Esks to improve or even match last year’s win totals.
Today’s auction is a mixture of sports and comfort.
- A pair of World Junior Tickets for all 10 games at Rexall. Big thanks to Shadified Salon and Spa for the tickets.
- The Aeron chair (pictured above) is one of the “best” ergonomic work chairs ever built! Contemporary Office Interiors Inc. will custom fit the size and deliver it to you. Pretty sweet.
- And our friends at Karl Hagar Limb and Brace will give you a biomechanical foot assessment and a pair of custom fit foot orthoses. This is great for you kids if they have foot problems or yourself.
To bid you can call 780.426.8326 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Bidding starts at 2 p.m and ends at 5:45 MST with 100% of the money going to the Christmas Bureau.
Over 60,000 people need help from the Christmas Bureau so if you can’t bid on this package, but you want help you can donate here. or you can make a quick donation on your phone. Just text: Christmas to 45678 – $10 Hamper to 45678 – $5
Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas.